Guest post by Deron Spoo for Saturate.
I am a public follower of Jesus. I am only being honest when I admit my growing unease and sense of helplessness as cultural norms drift away from Christian standards. My daily media diet is filled by the latest developments in same-sex marriage or abortion debates or transgender celebrities. My discomfort gives rise to defensiveness. I find myself struggling for some meaningful way to respond to these changes in a manner that best honors the person I profess to serve.
How can I, as a Christ-follower, respond like Christ when I disagree with the direction of culture?
In my study at home sits a special shelf. On it rests 20 or so small books. For a volume to find its way to this shelf, it must be among the most insightful and spiritually nourishing books in my library. The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis sits here, as does Frank Laubach’s Letters by a Modern Mystic alongside an anonymous work entitled The Way of a Pilgrim.
Occasionally, I re-read each small volume and remind myself why I first appreciated them. In my mind, this exercise bears a similarity to the way I see my wife’s face now 20-plus years into our marriage. I tell her she is more beautiful than ever (and she is). While her beauty is no longer the youthful ideal, what has replaced it is something far better—a deeper magnificence, a patina of shared life and experience. Likewise, my first reading of these books was through the immaturity of eyes filled with idealism. Now that I am a bit more weathered by life, I want to see if these books hold an even-deeper loveliness.
Recently, I was reading Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God. Lawrence lived in an obscure 17th century European monastery, but his reflections on God have captured the attention of many since, including me. Lawrence’s biographer, Joseph de Beaufort, used ten words to describe his friend Lawrence: “His love for Jesus Christ changed him into another man.”
The timing of these words are fortuitous. I wonder if this one line from a near-forgotten monk in a long-ago century speaks to the way I address my world today. These ten words are simple but by no means easy.
If my love for Jesus Christ changed me into another person, I believe I would be bold enough to disagree with people without the need to dislike them.
If my love for Jesus Christ changed me into another person, I would find myself more inclined to have compassion on individuals rather than to condemn them over an issue.
If my love for Jesus Christ changed me into another person, perhaps I would make sure I am on God’s side rather than assuming He is on mine.
If my love for Jesus Christ changed me into another person, perhaps the desire to be loving would trump my need to always be right.
If my love for Jesus Christ changed me into another person, my fear of change would be arrested by my faith that God has all things well in hand.
Indeed, my love for Jesus has not yet changed me into another person, but I am moving in that direction—albeit slowly. Change is frightening, both the change taking place so quickly around me and the change taking place ever so slowly within. Certainly, culture will continue to change with or without my permission. But I can make sure these changes don’t alter me in a way that dishonors God.
One day I will choose the inscription for my tombstone. I think it wise to wait until later in life to make a final decision. But if I were to make the call today, one line serves as summation for what I want my life to look like once all is said and done. But more than wishing for these words to be inscribed on granite, I want them to be engraved on my character: “His love for Jesus Christ changed him into another man.”
Deron Spoo is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Over the past two decades, Deron has guided the church as it transitions from being simply a downtown church to a regional church committed to urban ministry. Church members describe him as “down to earth” and “authentic.” His television devotionals, First Things First, reach 100,000 people each week. Deron is a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of The Good Book: 40 Chapters That Reveal the Bible’s Biggest Ideas, released by David C Cook in 2017. He and his wife Paula have three children.
How is your love for Jesus slowly but surely changing you into a different person?
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